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Enbridge: Profile of a Corporate Polluter

August 2, 2010

“Energy is necessary for us to live long healthy lives. The oil sands is the second largest reserve in the world, and we can’t deny access to the rest of the world to that huge resource.”             Enbridge CEO Patrick Daniel speaking to Chamber of Commerce Canada

Last week we provided some initial background on the company that is responsible for the 1 million gallon plus oil spill into the Kalamazoo River. After further investigation we found that Enbridge has a long history of environmental contamination, left of land and environmental racism.

According to a report from Tar Sands Watch:

Between 1999 and 2008, across all of Enbridge’s operations there were 610 spills that released close to 132,000 barrels of hydrocarbons into the environment. This amounts to approximately half of the oil that spilled from the oil tanker the Exxon Valdez after it struck a rock in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1988.

This legacy of spills has resulted in wildlife extermination, water and soil contamination and increased levels of negative human healthy effects due to exposure to the fossil fuel leakage from Enbridge pipelines.

Over the years Enbridge has also used numerous lawsuits against citizens and communities of people to gain access to land to run their pipelines through. They have used eminent domain as a way to force people from their land and lawsuits against numerous communities, particularly indigenous communities in Canada and the US.

Enbridge is able to achieve these goals because it is a well-connected corporation, with numerous members of its board of directors working for or connected to some of the largest banks in Canada, as well as the CEO and board members connections to universities. Enbridge has been developing its political ties for decades now and these relationships are paying off in the form of massive subsidies and access to land for their projects. The Grand Rapids Press did publish a story about former Governor James Blanchard being on the board of Enbridge, but the article does little to explore the vast political connections that the company has.

The issue that Enbridge is most recently connected with and one that has recent virtually no coverage in the commercial news media is the company’s role in the Canadian Tar Sands Project.

The Tar Sands Project is a massive multi-billion dollar project that will mine vast areas of Western Canada in order to extract fossil fuels. Many environmentalists refer to the tar sands project as one of the most devastating single industrial projects in the history of humanity.

According to one activist website, “The tar sands are already slated to be the cause of up to the second fastest rate of deforestation on the planet behind the Amazon Rainforest Basin. Currently approved projects will see 3 million barrels of tar sands mock crude produced daily by 2018; for each barrel of oil up to as high as five barrels of water are used.” This source goes on to say that, “The tar sands mining procedure releases at least three times the CO2 emissions as regular oil production and is slated to become the single largest industrial contributor in North America to Climate Change.

The role that Enbridge will play is to construct pipelines that will carry the asphalt-like substance to the west coast, where it will be transported to Asian refineries. Most of pipelines will go through indigenous territories throughout Canada, according to Andrew Nikiforuk, author of one of the best books on this topic, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of the Continent.

For us to have an honest assessment of the consequences of the recent Michigan oil disaster and expect any real accountability, it is essential that we have a better understanding of the Enbridge company and the role it plays as a major corporate polluter and political power broker.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Both Sides of the Border permalink
    August 16, 2010 6:42 am

    It has been interesting to read Canadians’ reaction to the Enbridge pipeline leak into the Kalamazoo River. While the whole oil sands debate rages up in Alberta, Canadians are as polarized on the subject of resource extraction as the citizens of the U.S. My first thought when reading that Jim Blanchard was on Enbridge’s Board, was to remember that he was once the ambassador to Canada. Wow, the First Nations are deeply engaged in the same struggle to keep their lands (funny how the land delegated to native populations suddenly becomes ’eminent domain’ when corporations discover the minerals in those areas. How many times have native populations been forced from land they were sent to — which at the time seemed virtually worthless for exploitation) for the same reasons. Greed knows no boundary eh?


  1. New Video on Alberta Tar Sands – the most ecologically destructive project on the planet « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

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